5 tips to motivate your kids — without bribery!

How do you easily get children to step away from the TV and pick up a book? The answer shouldn't always be money. Danielle Wood of shares helpful advice on how to reward little ones for good behavior:

Think outside the bribery box If you’re going to bribe your child with a reward, consider something other than cold hard cash. For example, launch a Parent Day. The reward: Your child wins a full day with the parent of their choice. They get to create the entire itinerary, from where you go (a show, baseball game, museum) to what you eat. Your child is completely in charge — no siblings allowed.

Create a book budget
OK, your kids want money. But it doesn’t have to be cash in hand. Instead of giving them carte blanche, let them earn a monthly gift certificate to a local bookstore. What kids read doesn’t matter as much as the fact that they are reading. And studies show that when people get a reward, the reward itself, whatever it is, becomes valuable to them. Translation: Give books and books become desirable. Let kids buy whatever they want to read — comic books, magazines, romance novels — with no lecture from mom and dad.

Bring learning to life
Some kids just don’t enjoy book learning. But that doesn’t mean they can’t work on key skills and subject areas. Give school subjects some cachet by framing them differently. Sure, kids yawn at the thought of the science textbook, but you can reel them in with explosions in the kitchen (chemistry), an Olympics in the backyard (scorekeeping hones math and statistics) or a cool building project (measurement).

Have a child who’s much more interested in whiling away the days on the computer? Tell them you want the family to launch a Web site and put them in charge. Whether it’s a blog, an online newsletter or just text to float around all their cool pictures, they’ll get writing practice. And knowing friends will be reading it will be major motivation to work on their writing skills.

Make every day career day
Schools bring in professionals once a year for a lecture on life in the working world. But once a year is not enough. Mentoring is a key component missing from today’s schools, and it might be just what your kid needs to see why studying matters. So close the books and hit the street. Instead of nagging your son about why math is important — show him, by arranging a few hours of shadowing with someone who uses math on the job. Don’t just focus on what he says he’ll never use — set up meetings with people pursuing his passions. It will help inspire him to keep his head in the game.

The tough-love approach
Experts say that there are basically only three ways kids learn to change behavior: coercion, negotiation and fear. The tips so far have been of the first two varieties. But there’s something to be said for a cold dose of reality. Ask your high-schooler how they envision their living circumstances once they’re no longer under your roof, and then have a realistic conversation about what it costs to live in that New York City apartment or drive that little red car. Don’t just scare them silly, though. Give them some life skills.

When you have a big purchase to make, take them with you to do the comparison-shopping. Show them how you balance your checkbook. And be honest about the fact that sometimes you have to do things you don’t like to get what you want. Give them a glimpse into what the adult world will be like, tell them you believe in them, and show them how school ties in to their eventual success.

For more smart parenting tips and information, visit